A Walk Among the Tombstones

tn_tombstonesSometimes a man just has to walk among the tombstones, you know? Stroll within the grave markers. Saunter betwixt the memorials. Seagal did it in PISTOL WHIPPED and now my man Liam Neeson (THE DEAD POOL) is taking a turn. He’s doing it in a mystery thriller based on book #10 in a series by Lawrence Block. The movie version is written and directed by Scott Frank, the guy that wrote OUT OF SIGHT, so it’s more about capturing that crime novel feel than being another Neeson vehicle like UNKNOWN or NON-STOP. That said, he is allowed to be awesome, and there are some scuffles.

Admittedly the opening scene is better than anything else in the movie. It’s a flashback to 1991, but has a ’70s feel. Stringy-haired, racial-slur-using asshole police detective Matthew Scudder (Neeson) walks into an empty bar where cops get free drinks. And this is how you know he sucks: the bartender greets him by name, and he doesn’t even say hi or look at him. He just knocks on the counter and then sits down at a booth with his back to him. Fuck you, man! I guarantee you this prick doesn’t tip either. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Rover

tn_roverYou know what I realized? I don’t love minimalism. I don’t hate it either, and I think it’s funny to watch normal people get upset and confused by one of these slow, quiet, ambiguous takes on what usually would be genre material. It’s not for everybody. But some of these things are real artful, and when they’re really rolling the relative lack of movie artifice helps get a potent atmosphere and tone and feel going like nothing else. But to be honest at the end when they wrap up they don’t usually feel like a full experience to me. They’re not usually my favorites, or things I’d want to watch again. But as far as they go, THE ROVER is a real good one.

I don’t mean to diminish it. I liked it and I’m pretty sure some of you will love it. I just thought it would be better to start on that thought than to end on it. And also I want to warn you not to watch this late at night after work like I did. It is fair for filmatists to expect full day time awakeness levels from their viewers, and writer/director David Michod here has earned it ’cause he’s the guy that did ANIMAL KINGDOM. (A co-story credit goes to Joel Edgerton, although he’s not in the movie as an actor.)

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The Guest

tn_guestFirst I gotta give you that dreaded warning that more than the usual amount of fun in this one comes from not knowing what type of movie it’s gonna be. Not like it’s some crazy rollercoaster or mindblowing, rug-pulling shocker of a twist or anything, but it mixes up genres a little bit and I’m glad I didn’t know where it was going. So you might want to do what I did and just know it’s from the director and writer of YOU’RE NEXT and give it a shot. That worked well for me. But if you want to read my review beforehand anyway, be my guest.

Dan Stevens, who you know from playing the libidinous chandelier designer Lord Downington Abernathy on Downton Abbey, but who I know from playing the douchey soul-patched heroin trafficker in the other new movie I watched the day before this, plays a soldier called David Collins who shows up on Mrs. Peterson (Sheila Kelley)’s doorstep one day. He knew her son Caleb, who died in Afghanistan, says he promised to come check on the family for him and tell them he loved them right to the end. This brings up alot of emotions of course but she invites him in (like a fucking vampire) and he befriends her drinking, Henry-Winkler-esque husband Spencer (Leland Orser, SEVEN), her cool 20-year-old waitress daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) and her put-upon high school son Luke (Brendan Meyer, SPOOKY BUDDIES). So he ends up sticking around for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Executioners From Shaolin

tn_executionersMany of us know Pai Mei from his strict teachings of Beatrix Kiddo. In KILL BILL VOLUME 2 he’s a mean old bastard with long white hair. But he’s meaner and older than you may realize: his first movie appearance is in EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN (1977), a movie that opens with him dueling a Shaolin priest to the death and burning down the temple with most of the monks inside. He was already an old man then, and that was 1727 (at least according to the first literary references to the alleged historical figure he’s based on).

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Chino

tn_chinoor “What I Did With Charles Bronson On My Summer Vacation”

CHINO is the last western by John Sturges. Here’s the director of GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL practically making a spaghetti western – it’s a Dino De Laurentiis production, but filmed in Spain. I guess I don’t really know what kind of noodle that would be. But he reunites with his MAGNIFICENT SEVEN / THE GREAT ESCAPE star Charles Motherfuckin Bronson in his prime.

Bronson plays Chino Valdez, a loner who ran with the Cheyenne Indians in his youth and now lives all by himself on a ranch catching wild horses, training and breeding them. One day this blond kid named Jamie (Dick Van Patten’s youngest son Vincent) rides by looking for work and Chino – first seen in scary silhouette – lets him sleep in his barn. He keeps calling him “boy” and is the opposite of friendly, almost scares him away by chopping meat in front of him, but then shames him into staying so he doesn’t look like a sissy.

Of course they form a sweet friendship as Chino keeps getting a little nicer to him. He talks gruff but offers him things like letting him borrow a horse to ride into town and help him with different tasks. He makes him smile by threatening to cut his ears off. After a couple days he admits he likes having the boy around and hires him, even though he’s Chino, for fuck’s sake, why would he need anyone to help him with anything? Ridiculous. (read the rest of this shit…)

Noah

tn_noahHere’s one of those beloved I.P.s that the studios are always looking to repackage and the fans get real excited for. It’s a high concept that’s practically a movie trailer already, it’s like LORD OF THE RINGS meets TITANIC meets DR. DOLITTLE. And just like with Batman or Superman there’s alot of great interpretations from different eras for the filmatists to draw from. You got the Bible version, you got the Quran version, you got the FANTASIA 2000 version. Alot of people grew up on the Noah property. But like THE LONE RANGER last year maybe the whole premise is a little bit too campy for today’s audiences. It might be a little too late for this to become a franchise.

Russell Crowe (NO WAY BACK, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS) plays Noah, a survivalist living off the grid in the wastelands traveling with his wife (Jennifer Connelly from PHENOMENA) and kids, trying to avoid men and cities. I’m not sure if it’s the future or the past, but they dress kinda like the people of Zion in THE MATRIX. There’s a weird scaly dog like Riddick would be friends with. We see when he’s attacked by barbarians that Noah does know how to kick ass, but he and his family live by a monk-like code, or maybe a hippie one. They don’t carry weapons, they don’t eat meat, they respect nature, the women are allowed to wear pants.
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Escape (Flukt)

tn_escapebtislESCAPE (or FLUKT) is a great little Norwegian period action movie. If I had seen any other Norwegian period action movies I’m confident this would still be one of the best. It’s kind of like a post-apocalypse movie because the population has been decimated by the Black Plague, and gangs of brutes terrorize anybody with the balls to travel around. One such balls-having family is attacked by one such gang, and only their teenage daughter Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen) is spared.

It’s a gang of five men and one woman, Dagmar (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), who is their leader. Dagmar seems like a real savage and they’re all scared of her, but when they get back to the camp it seems like maybe she’s got some sense of sisterhood, some instinct to be protective of her fellow females. There’s an innocent little girl there named Frigg (Milla Olin), and as soon as she sees her Dagmar turns all motherly, talking to her sweetly and kissing her on the cheek. The men try to intimidate Signe, but Dagmar reassures her. “Don’t worry, they won’t touch you.”

But then, “Unless I let them.”

See, what Dagmar has planned for Signe is worse than what happened to her family. She says she’s barren, but Frigg needs a little sister. So you can see why Signe needs to flukt. Or escape.
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A Good Man

tn_agoodmanex3-seagal“The rate this is going we’re going to run out of Russians soon.”

A GOOD MAN – not to be confused with A DANGEROUS MAN, A SERIOUS MAN, A SINGLE MAN, A SOLITARY MAN, HE WAS A QUIET MAN, etc. – is the latest Steven Seagal picture, continuing what at first glance looks like Seagal’s Goatee Period (SGP). The new facial hair seems to represent the evil Seagal from another dimension, or at least a slightly darker Seagal. In the opening narration he explains that he has both light and darkness in him. Later he calls himself “a regular man who does bad things to bad people.”

He doesn’t seem like as much of an anti-hero as the Russian gangster he played in his last movie, FORCE OF EXECUTION, but he is a guy who goes around literally chopping up gangsters and leaving them strewn across alleys. Technically that’s not that different from what he does in other movies, but it’s presented differently. The first pile we don’t see as an action scene, we see it as a crime scene investigated by detectives. And he leaves a calling card – incense in their hands, the Chinese characters for “Gwai-Lo” – like a serial killer.

But on closer examination, this gangster-slayer actually is an alternate reality version of the guy from the last movie. On a behind the scenes featurette writer/director Keoni Waxman says they originally started writing it as a sequel to “our last movie,” which would explain the returning beard and that both characters are named Alexander. (read the rest of this shit…)

Meet JOHN WICK

Stu already linked this in the MAN OF TAI CHI comments, but I thought it needed its own post. Ladies and gentlemen, this movie I never heard of before is now on my most-anticipated list with a bullet:

The boring 47 RONIN kinda put a damper on the roll Keanu seemed to be on with his excellent directorial debut MAN OF TAI CHI, but not enough to make me skeptical of this one. This is just a great trailer with many classical badass elements: the car, the implications of his past, the dramatic visual reveal of his backstory, the PAYBACK-esque first person narration, the fear on John Leguizamo’s face when he realizes which hornet’s nest his buddies have just kicked. (read the rest of this shit…)

Boyhood

tn_boyhoodNote: I sincerely considered whether or not it was feasible to write this review one paragraph per year for 12 years. I decided maybe somebody else should do it.

When we first met Richard Linklater in the ’90s, his specialty was the one-day movie. SLACKER and DAZED AND CONFUSED captured a moment in time by following a group of characters (or a random selection of Austin weirdos) at a particular time. But all these years later he’s fascinated with the opposite: showing the same actors over a long period of time, seeing how things change. He started by following up the characters from the one-day BEFORE SUNRISE seven years later, and then fourteen years later. And with BOYHOOD, as you’ve probly heard, he somehow managed to make a movie with a star who is 7 years old at the beginning and he filmed a little bit each year until the year he starts college. About the only thing that would be more ambitious would be if he made a movie about trying to get me to sit through WAKING LIFE again.

The result is a movie as impressive as it sounds and much more involving. It still has that day-in-the-life feel, it’s just that it’s a whole bunch of days spread out across years. You know what, maybe alot of you other directors are just rushing things. Where’s the fire, man? Take the time to let your actors grow up on camera. Don’t be lazy. (read the rest of this shit…)